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tv   PBS News Hour  PBS  March 28, 2011 5:30pm-6:30pm PDT

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>> you are watching "the journal." >> and i am a at the business desk. >> new problems at fukushima, with the soil highly radioactive. chancellor angela merkel is in crisis mode, and in libya, rebel fighters moved closer to the gaddafi birthplace, with their sights set on tripoli.
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there is more evidence this monday that at least one of the reactors at japan's fukushima power plant is leaking. officials have found plutonium around the plant, and highly radioactive water has been discovered for the first time outside the building. the tokyo electric power company, tepco, maintains it poses no health risk to humans. we have this report. >> plutonium habeen found in five spots around fukushima, but tepco insists the levels are not harmful. >> the level detective is extremely small and will not affect human health. -- the level detected.
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>> they were trying to stay on top of the situation. now, a government reesentative is says that there may have been a partial meltdown inside reactor number two, this after water rose to more than 100,000 times its normal level over the weekend. they now have to pump out the contaminated water before they continue to work on reestablishing the cooling system. engineers can only spend a few minutes at a time in the reactor buildings due to the radiation levels. >> when you are inside, you are coaminated by radiation. i was exposed over five days. the longer you spend inside, the longer it becomes -- more it becomes. >> , work is continuing to bring the situation under control -- despite the risk, work is
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continuing. >> i spoke with the greenpeace nuclear policy expert in amsterdam and ask him whether he thinks suspicions are valid that one of the reactors is, indeed, leaking radioactive material. >> well, yes, and i think this is not in the news. we have been monitoring the radiation levels outside of the building. there is extensive damage to the fuel. and there is exposure to the containment vessel, which is the only way to explain the radiation levels outside the building. >> ok, maybe you can explain to our viewers, we understand that plutonium is rather heavy. the chance of its spreading over great distances is not that great. would you agree with that? >> for example, at chernobyl, we have found plutonium up to 40
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kilometers. especially if it is small particles, it can spread through the water. >> let's say that what we are getting right now, the levels of contamination of the soil right now, is accurate. is it possible to clean that up? >> well, technically, yes, but it would be requiring a lot of time. there was a factory with radioactive particles in the 1960's, and still, there are new particles being washed up on shore. >> from green priests -- from greenpeace, thank you very much for talking with us. >> thank you. >> despite the earthquake and tsunami, many are still being held in emergency accommodations.
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mainly elderly are staying in what is reported as being under he did, overcrowded shelters -- under heated and overcrowded shelters. they do not have access to hot water, so it has been weeks since some have bathed. a direct impact on politics right here in germany. chancellor angela merkel's christian democrats lost control of the most prosperous state in a weekend election.p+ in baden-wurttemberg, they handed control their for the first time to the green party. >> the party's victory is a big victory for them. >> for us, it means we are strengthened, but it also means we find ourselves in an entirely new situation in baden- wurttemberg.
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instead of being the smaller government party, we are the party that supplies the state premier, and that comes with a high level of responsibility. >> this is a state where the conservative christian democrats have governed for almost six decades. pressure is mounting on the free deck it -- free democrats and their leader. they emerged as the biggest loser, losing more than half of their seats in baden- wurttemberg. they did not get enough seats in rheinland-pfalz. >> it is obvious that the future of nuclear power and nuclear policy plate and pour a role in yesterday's elections. we just cannot return to business as usual -- the future of nuclear power and nuclear policy played an important role in yesterday's election. >> merkel has ruled out a
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cabinet reshuffle. >> as a supporter of nuclear power, i want to openly say my view of it has been changed by the events in japan. >> chancellor merkel said her party had begin to have discussions on energy policy, but the social democrats are stepping up pressure. she says the review is not enough. the one heard to say no to nuclear power once and for all. -- they want her to say no. >> and we will have more on what is being called germany's greens spree later on ithis half- hour. britain and france are urging supporters of muammar gaddafi. this is as rebel forces surged west, moving ever closer to the gaddafi birthplace, which is
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coidered the last place before a battle for tripoli. >> inside gaddafi forces delivered supplies to locals -- anti-gaddafi forces. a lack of fuel has been slowing the rels' advance. they prepare for the next big area, sirte. their spokesman says they hope to enter the city in the coming days. the rebels have already come a long way, retaking several areas. now, they are about 100 kilometers east of sirte. allied air strikes back of their advance. nato reportedly flew over 100 missions on monday. the alliance is in the process of taking full command in the process over libya.
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nato top officials stressed the future of the country was in the hands of the people. >> i hope to see a ceasefire as soon as possible in a peaceful transition to democracy for the libyan people to decide the future of libya, and let me add to that the we also fully respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of liby >>t is not expected more nato members will join the coalition. germany has ruled out any involvement. >> fresh violence in syria. reports say that government forces have again opened fire on demonstrators in a southern city. for over one week now, it has been the center of anti- government protests. witnesses say hundreds gathered in the main square, calling for reforms. in neighboring turkey, the prime minister says he has been in contact with the syrian president. he says he has urged the
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president to, quote, listen to his people. staying in the region, each of some military leaders say the country will hold parliamentary elections in september -- egypt 's military leaders say the country will hold elections. they were talking about lifting emergency law, but they have not said when. they have denied reports that hosni mubarak has the lead. they say he remains under house arrest. ok, talking more about the economic repercussions in japan. >> what do you do when the world's third largest economy is temporarily out of order? several industries are struggling to rebuild their supply chains after a loss of dozens of key parts suppliers in japan. many specialized components makers were located in the region hit hardest by the
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earthquake and tsunami in japan. the global automotive industry has been among the hardest hit, including japan, home to the world's biggest car maker, toyota. this has caused temporary shutdowns in automakers from the united stateseso germany. some have been able to move fairly quickly to adapt, but some will need several months to recover. >> toyota has repeatedly postponed the resumption of production in japan, but on monday, workers returned to two of the 18 plants, at least for now. >> we do not know if we can get all of the parts, but as long as the factory is running, i am relieved. >> assembly lines that we started on three hybrids and the lexus model, but the situation in the japanese car sector remains difficult. in addition to toyota, honda and suzuki have cut back.
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supplies for chips for cars and just about anything electronic could also run short. it is said the soap on wafers that one company makes for the chip industry could be in short supply by may, -- it said the silicon wafers it makes. >> there was a recovery in the automotive industry in the past year, and one has been able to significantly reduce its heavy debt load by selling off a stake in a supplier. there was a hostile takeover of continental in 2008 to as prior to the industry crisis, and it ended up with a massive debt burd. monday's share sale brought in 1.8 billion euros, cutting their overall debt burden. they do still control over 60%. thth is one of the world's biggest maker of ball bearings.
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the other is a big tiremaker. and a major boost from green party gains here in germany. shares of a turbine maker posted double-digit gains after it said it expected sales to pi up in the coming months and forecast a very strong growth for 2012. and there is the rising demand. the company says it plans to invest about 70 million euros in research and development, and they expect sales of just over 1 billion euros in the past year. overall, a german blue chips in frankfurt closed slightly lower. we have this summary of the trading session from the frankfurt stock exchange. >> there we some favorites here on the german stock market
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after the regional elections in germany. these are companies that are active in renewable energy, wind power, or solar energy. it is expected that now after this outcome of the regional election, there will be a fast exit from atomic energy and more money being invested into renewable energy, and the election also put more pressure on some companies,ike e.on, in the dax. people were treading carefully because of all of that news coming out of japan. >> in frankfurt, we can stay for a closer look at monday's numbers, and the blue-chip dax closing just slightly lower than the euro stoxx 50 it locking in slight gains for the day
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across the event in new york, the dow industrials are at this hour slightly lower after trading a bit higher earlier in the day. and on currency markets, the euro trading at about the of $1.40. the bond market is losing even more companies in portugal. yields for government bonds went to record highs of more than 8% on monday, and investors demanded an 8.7% yield on the heavily indebted country's five- year yields. their credit rating was lowered, and this came after the austere to measures fail to pass in parliament. many expect portugal to resort to an international bailout to finally get its economic house in order. now, back over for some news
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from france. >> angela merkel, not before mr. sarkozy. the french president suffered a setback in local elections. 20 percent of the vote was taken, coming in second behind the opposition socialists, who got 36%. another performed strongly with almost 12%. in the opinion polls, they were looking at sarkozy being eliminated in the first round of next year's presidential elections. the battle for the presidey. the italian prime minister silvio berlusconi appeared in court on monday in connection with fraud allegations. his supporters gathered outside the courtroom in a lawn. prosecutors alleged fraud took place during a broadcast by one of his media companies. this is one of four trials that
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ththprime minister is facing. he says the charges are politically motivated. all right, i will be back in one minute to talk about the green surg
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>> all right, welcome back, everyone. everyone is talking about sunday's nuclear election. the situation in japan caused some issues. the christian democrats lost a six decade-long reign of power. it was a blow to chancellor angela merkel, who leads the christian democrats. there was the back-and-forth policy on nuclear power, and they gave their votes to the green party. >> german chancellor angela merkel was putting on a brave face after sunday's electoral debacle. they were defeated for the first
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time after 58 years in power in baden-wurttemberg, delivering a severe blow. it marks a big shift. >> we lost the governing majority. it is a deep cut in the history of baden-wurttemberg, and with that, the history of our party. >> people just did not vote against your party, but about nuclear reactors. many voters considered this to be political. some were alienated by the policy shift. now, she says she is a nuclear supporter of the ones to reexamine the issues. what happened in japan was so improbable that it can, and i think also will, affe our point of view regarding what is
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probable and what is improbable. >> besides cleaning up its own mess, the christian democrats are looking at their opponents. even though the grass roots is always the frustrated, the party leadership is looking for time. >> we will have a comprehensive district -- conversation in an orderly process that will come above all, be defined by long- term aims. >> her coalition partner is trying to save its own skin, which will not make the remaining time in government any easier. angela merkel insists there will my be any changes to a cabinet. >> i am seen no signs of that, so i cannot answer that question right now. >> the chancellor now faces a tough balancing act. on n e one hand, the success of the green party has changed the
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balance of power, while on the other hand, critics in your own party are calling for something else. >> yes, no doubt, this crisis time for german chancellor angela merkel. she will have to formulate a strategy for rebuilding credibility with the electorate. the greens are bad and political sunshine, however. >> the fukushima accident inn japan was said to be the deciding factor of the green success. >> what do you think was the key factor? >> phasing out nuclear energy or fukushima, whatever you call it. >> i think it did tip the scales and gave the green is what they needed.
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>> i think it helped them. after all, they have been campaigning against nuclear energy for years. this is all over the media. >> never before had they had such a good election results. even the party leadership is attributing some of3 this to the recent event in japan. many now say the elections were a referendum on japanese nuclear power. >> after these elections, it should be clear that most germans see the future in renewable energy and not in nuclear. >> the lesson to be learned is that now is the time to flip a switch from nuclear to renewables. >> the greens want to use their newly gained the authority to assure a shutdown of all of germany's nuclear reactors by 2017. they want to use all political means to block plans.
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>> we now have a different balance of power in parliament. we will use their strength to shape policy at a federal level. >> germany's post-election political landscape is looking decidedly reader. now, the party has to prove it can deliver just more than anti- nuclear rhetoric. the country's power grid needs to be massively extended, to which there is opposition, even among the greens. the new political responsibility could soon turn into a nuclear power hangover. >> i spoke with a political analyst about power today. here is what he had to say. >> obviously, it was the dominating issue of the campaign, nuclear energy, to get out of the dependence on nuclear
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energy, but furthermore, there was one point which was very important, namely that thee greens looked like the party people can trust more. there are many public opinion polls that voters like the greens because they can be trusted, as compareto other parties. >> sir, is this just a flash in the pan in response to the catastrophe in japan could >> well, it is a victory in baden- wurttemberg, and the greens are up to 25%, and they will likely have 12% to 14%. >> the liberal party, leadership
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being questioned. what is the party going to do? >> well, they have to exchange a few people in the leadership. the free democratic party has to emerge as a party which is not only for a tax cut but witches in favor of other policy areas where the party is competent, especially economic policy, human rights, but also social policy. >> what do you think of the options now for chancellor angela merkel? >> well, she has to try to hold together the christian democrats. there are many groups, branches, which tend to get out of the party, which criticize her as a
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party leader. furthermore, she has to recognize that the german party system has changed, that the green party is in the center now, being able to coalesce with the christian democrat union as well as with the socialist party. that is very important. she has to offer coalition opportunities to the green party. >> in the years to come, do you think people are going to look back at this regional election as the daughter of a new era on nuclear policies? >> ople will say that in the near future because of a change from a government run by the christian democrats for 60 years, and now, it is a dream/red gogornment. it is not only the change in power, but it is also the first
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time in german history, the history of the federal republic, that a member of the green party will become a prime minister of one of the states. >> that is our "in depth" report. thanks for watching.
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captioning sponsored by macneil/lehrer productions >> ifill: rebel troops clashed with libyan forces, as they took the battle west toward moammar qaddafi's home town of sirte. good evening. i'm gwen ifill. >> brown: and i'm jeffrey brown. on the newshour tonight, we get the latest on the allied air power assisting the opposition and the new momentum of the rebel advance, retaking key towns along the northern coast. >> ifill: and in a speech to the nation tonight, president obama defends u.s. involvement. >> brown: plus, we update the spiraling nuclear crisis in japan, where new radiation
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levels have been found in the air, seawater, and soil around the fukushima plant. >> ifill: and ray suarez talks to marcia coyle about today's supreme court free speech arguments involving a campaign finance law in arizona. that's all ahead on tonight's newshour. major funding for the pbs newshour has been provided by: having the security of a strong financial partner certainly lets you breathe easier. for more than 140 years, pacific life has helped millions of americans build a secure financial future. wouldn't it be nice to take a deep breath and relax? your financial professional can tell you about pacific life, the power to help you succeed.
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>> you can't manufacture pride, but pride builds great cars. and you'll find in the people at toyota, all across america. chevron. we may have more in common than you think. and by bnsf railway. and by the bill and melinda gates foundation. dedicated to the idea that all people deserve the chance to live a healthy, productive life. and with the ongoing support of these institutions and foundations. and... this program was made possible by the corporation for public broadcasting. and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> ifill: the libyan rebels' drive to oust moammar qaddafi reached the outskirts of his hometown and tribal base today. fighting erupted outside the city of sirte, home to 100,000
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people. it's a key stronghold guarding the approaches to tripoli, 225 miles away. the rebels had already rolled up a series of eastern cities in a lightning advance over the weekend, behind a curtain of coalition air strikes. we have a report from outside sirte from lindsey hilsum of independent television news. >> reporter: they're fighting just east of sirte, colonel qaddafi's birth place. the rebels who swept up the road yesterday found his tanks waiting for them today. rumors have spread that sirte fell in the night but qaddafi's forces are making a stand in what he calls the political capital of africa. we drove past the oil towns. if they hold on to them, the rebels could start eorting crude oil again. they have petrol but no power so the pumps don't work.
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they call this fishing for gas. it's free. the petrol station's contribution to the revolution. the momentum is with the rebels, but only because of the allied air strikes. the air is thick with smoke. an electrical cable has been hit. that's what is pumping that black plume into the air. we can hear the occasional thump of the allied air strikes coming in a few kilometers down the road. that's where colonel qaddafi and his armor are. that's where these rebels are heading now. some seem to be taking it easy. but most are keen to move ahead just hoping for more allied air strikes. >> this would be a big help for us. it's very important. otherwise, you know, because the tanks are down there. so if it weren't for the tanks we would keep going. it would be more easier for us. >> rorter: they fan out searching for any of qaddafi's
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soldiers who might still be lurking, ready to fight. a few yards to the side of the road in the desert, a rebel shows me the identity card of a qaddafi stoldier he says they captured. as in the midst of this we came across two from manchester trying to get to miss rat a where their family is stranded. >> trying to get in contact with my mom and dad and everybody else. what are you going to do? you have to find out what's going on. i carry no arms. like everybody else. just go with the flow. >> reporter: misrata is still in qaddafi's hands. they've heard nothing from friends or family for more than three weeks. >> i have friends of mine. >> reporter: one family's story among thousands.
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in a country full of uncertainty where no one can be sure what the next day will bring. >> brown: the rebel gains >> brown: the rebel gains raised new questions about the extent of the coalition's military mission. russian foreign minister sergey lavrov charged the campaign has gone well beyond protecting civilians, as the u.n. authorized. . >> reports are coming and no one denies them on coalition air force strikes against qaddafi's columns of troops. and reports about the support of the actions of the armed insurgents. there's a clear contradiction here. we believe that interference of the coalition in the internal, as a matter of fact, civil war has not been sanctioned by the u.n. security council resolution. >> ifill: in response, nato's military commander for libya insisted the purpose of the air strikes is unchanged. the alliance agreed on sunday to take control of the libyan operation from the u.s.,
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britain, and france. meanwhile, army general carter ham of the u.s. africa command warned qaddafi's forces could still roll back the rebels, if the air strikes stopped. at a pentagon briefing, vice admiral bill gortney reinforced that view. >> clearly the opposition is not well organized, and it is not a very robust organization. i mean, that's obvious. so any gain that they make is tenuous based on that. i mean, it's... clearly they're achieving a benefit from the actions that we're taking. we're not coordinating with it. but i think general ham's assessment is pretty good. >> ifill: and in another development, the persian gulf state of qatar formally recognized the rebels as the legitimate representatives of libya. it was the first arab government to take that step. >> brown: still to come on the newshour, new findings of radioactive material around japan's fukushima plant; and supreme court arguments about campaign financing.
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but first, the other news of the day. here's hari sreenivasan. >> sreenivasan: unrest gripped syria again today, with security forces confronting new protests. the troops used tear gas and fired into the air to disperse crowds. some 4,000 people demonstrated in daraa, where thprotests began more than a week ago. there was also more trouble in the port city of latakia, as armed groups for and against the government faced off. officials said syrian president bashir assad could address the nation as early as tuesday to ease a nearly 50-year state of emergency. in yemen, a powerful explosion at a weapons factory killed at least 78 people. it happened in abyan province in the south. the blast appeared to be accidental, but it came one day after islamic militants took over the factory and the nearby town of jaar. government forces had pulled back, as protests spread. and there were more protests today in the capital city, sanaa. thousands of demonstrators again demanded that president ali abdullah saleh step down.
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some 250 people have been detained since a crackdown in bahrain this month, and more than 40 are missing. shiite opposition leaders reported those figures today, and said they've doubled since last week. the kingdom's sunni rulers dismissed appeals for an international human rights investigation. and police insisted their tight control of the streets is essential. >> for the person o does not violate any law or who does not commit any crime, the checkpoints do not concern him. quite the opposite, it reassures their security. it is more safety on the road. as the saying goes, "if you don't steal, you won't fear." as long as you don't commit any crime, you will be passed through the checkpoint with a good heart. >> sreenivasan: bahrain is now under martial law. and roughly 1,000 troops from saudi arabia and other sunni- ruled states are deployed in the country. taliban suicide bombers attacked a construction company in afghanistan today. they shot their way into a compound, blew up a truck loaded with explosives and killed 23
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people. nearly 60 others were wounded. and in pakistan, militants killed 11 government soldiers in an ambush near the afghan border. a saudi arabian man has pleaded not guilty in texas to charges he plotted to blow up targets in texas and new york city. khalid aldawsari was arraigned in federal court in lubbock today. he'd been a college student there when he was arrested in february. agents traced online purchases of explosive chemicals and found a makeshift lab in his apartment. if convicted, aldawsari faces a possible life sentence. the trial is set for may 2. in economic news, consumer spending rose last month, but, the commerce department said much of the gain went to pay sharply higher gasoline prices. and on wall street, stocks began the week on a losing note. the dow jones industrial average lost more than 22 points to close below 12,198. the nasdaq fell 12 points to close at 2730. germany chancellor angela merkel played down a stinging election defeat today tied to the nuclear scare in japan.
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on sunday, the anti-nuclear greens won power in a state where merkel's christian democrats had governed since 1958. voter fears over what's happened in japan was the dominant issue. before the election, merkel had ordered a review of nuclear power in germany. she said today the review will go forward. those are some of the day's major stories. now, back to jeff. >> brown: japan's nuclear troubles grew worse still today, even as confirmed deaths from the earthquake and tsunami topped 11,000. officials reported radioactive water has spread beyond a damaged reactor building, and radiation has also gotten into the ground. smoke rising from parts of the fukushima dai-ichi plant was the most visible sign of ongoing trouble, but the real threat lay beyond public view at unit 2 highly radioactive water, first discovered last week, has now escaped the reactor containment building. it was found today in deep utility trenches used for
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pipes and wiring with an opening just 180 feet from the sea. water has also pooled inside the reactor's basement where radiation levels were measured at 100,000 times above normal. the japanese government acknowledged its likely the reactor suffered a partial meltdown. in fact, on sunday the radiation level was initially reported to be even worse. >> the water contains 10 million times the usual level of radioactive substances. >> brown: hours later the tokyo electric power company said it had miscalculated and apologized. but the mistake forced employees to flee unit 2 for hours on sunday and interrupted their efforts to jump-start cooling systems. today the government's chief cabinet secretary sharply criticized the utility. >> the measurement of radiation is necessary to secure various aspects of safety at the plant. so these kinds of mistakes cannot be forgiven. >> brown: the problem was not confined to unit 2.
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workers found reactors 1 and 3 also have radioactive water in their utility trenches. the radiation levels though were significantly lower than at unit 2. but all tolled, it left crews with an enormous job, trying to remove the hundreds of tons of contaminated water. meanwhile officials announced plutonium has been detected in soil outside the fukushima complex. they insisted the amounts were too small to be a risk to public health. and contamination in sea water was spreading just off shore. japan's nuclear safety agency said there's no immediate health risk because a fishing ban is in effect. amid the rising radiation fears the government urged people not to return to areas near the plant though some have gone back to pick up belongings. we take a closer look now at the situation at the japan reactors and the threats posed by the
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released radiation. james acton is a physicist who works at the nuclear policy at the carnegie endowment for international peace. and david brenner, director of the center for radiological research at columbia university. james acton, i'll start with you. what do we know about this new problem of contaminated water outside the reactor and how serious is it? >> it's serious for a couple of reasons. it doesn't actually surprise me that they're finding very large quantities of radioactive water because they've been pumping huge quantities of water into the system. that water has got to go somewhere. the radioactive water there found inside the place is serious because it will complicate the relief effort. the radioactive water they found in the trenches is serious because if they don't pump that quickly into a storage facility there's a chance it will leak out and increase the radiation in the environment. >> brown: just to try to make this complicated equation clear, they now have a process where they have to pump water in to cool off the fuel rods, but they also have to pump out the contaminated water somewhere, to some safe place.
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>> that's exactly right. i mean, if you think back a couple of weeks to where this crisis started, it started with this race to cool down the fuel rods. they've been doing that by pumping in a lot of sea water and then more recently fresh water. but that water has to go somewhere. at the moment it's just leaking out into buildings and these trenches. now they have to pump that back in to an area within the plant that they've identified for storage. >> brown: do we know where this contaminated water comes from? you're saying it might come from the water that is is actually being pumped in? >> i think that's where it has to come from. the big question is where is the leak in the system? on friday the japanese authorities reported they were concerned that there was a leak in the reactor pressure. that turns out probably almost certainly not to be wrong. and in this very complicated series of high tech that comes out from the reactor pressure vessels, somewhere in that complicated series of piping there appears to be a leak or leaks. the utility apparently doesn't
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know where that leak is coming from. >> brown: david brenner in the meantime we have these conflicting very confusing reports on the levels of radiation this weekend. what do we know right now and where do you see the current danger? >> well, it's distinguished between the radiation levels inside the reactor itself and those of the general population outside are being exposed to. so if we start with the situation outside the reactor, what we've been seeing over the past few days is a steady decrease in radiation exposure levels from a week ago until today. steadily got smaller and smaller which is pleasing and really does reflect the way the wind is blowing as much as anything. the wind is still blowing the radioactivity towards the sea. the situation for the nuclear workers inside the plant, well, that's a different story. it's pretty clear that they are being exposed to high
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doses of radiation, and we certainly hope not fatal doses. but what they're doing, it would appear, is actually having more workers now than they did a week ago. so they're trying to spread the radiation dose among more people so that any given person has a lower radiation dose. i'll still very concerned about the long-term issues for the actual radiation workers. i think we could be looking at some serious injuries. >> brown: when... how long is it before you know, before something like that takes effect? >> well, in terms of the worst possible scenario which is mortality, it's typically 30 to 60 days would be the time scale, but i think we would know beforehand whether people were exposed to lethal doses. that's how long it takes for it to happen. >> brown: now, staying with you, and going now outside the reactor to the new reports of
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radiation in the ground and spreading at sea. now you started to talk a little bit about the impact of that. but fresh that out a little bit for us. how dangerous is it when it goes into the soil and also into... more into the ocean, spreading in the ocean? >> well, two different situations. it really depends on what something that we don't know quite now is how much radioactivity is being deposited in the sea or in the ground. i think the short-term issues are actually quite small in terms of public health. but we have much more important long-term issues that we're going to face. the dominant radio isotopes will be radioactivity cesium. that has a laugh life of decades so we're really talking about some exposure to the environment for really a generation or more to come. how important that is really depends on how much radioactivity gets into the environment.
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that we really don't know at this point. but the short-term issues i think are not so important for the general population. the exposures that people are getting short term over the next days or even weeks, as it stands at the moment, are relatively small. >> brown: james acton, just to help us think about where we're at and what may come about mid or longer term, what does it mean when the authorities tell us that it's likely that there has been a partial meltdown. remind us, what exactly does that mean? >> well, jeff, when you turn off a nuclear reactor, as it were, the fuel rods still generate heat and remain hot. and so you've got to keep those fuel rods cool. if you don't keep them cool then they to melt. that melting lies along a spectrum really. you could have a tiny bit of fuel melting. all the way through to all of the fuel melting. we know that there has been a partial meltdown. that is to say that some of the fuel within the core has
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melted. but not all of it. part of the difficulty the operators face is you can't just flip the lid on a nuclear reactor and look inside. we don't actually know how much of the fuel has melted. or indeed many of the other conditions in the core right now. >> brown: david brenner, i want to ask you about the other new report today which is the plutonium found in the ground. what does that tell you? what's the connection here if any? >> well, there are various sources that the plutonium could have come from. i think we're relieved that the levels are actually very low. and actually typical of natural plutonium contamination in this country. so right now we don't have to worry about any biological consequences of that plutonium. there's a very small amount of it. >> brown: so, do we... are we looking-- i'll start with you on this, david brenner. are we looking at days, weeks, months? i mean you were talking about not knowing about the impact
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for years. but when you think about the new issues that have been raised, particularly the water outside the reactor, what are we looking at here? >> well, in terms of the workers inside the power plant-- and i must stress again that these are incredibly brave people because they are going into a situation where there is a great deal of potential for harm. this is a short-term issue. they've being exposed to moderate doses or perhaps even high doses of radiation right now. and the issues are short-term. on the point of view of everybody else outside the plant, there arshort-term issues to do with the radiation exposure in the next week or two. again as far as we can tell, the extensive measurements that we have would suggest that the risks are not so large. but we are faced with a lower level, much longer-term issue of exposure to the general population over the next few
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decades. >> brown: let me ask you, james acton, briefly again, the same sort of thing. when you look at the potential forgetting this under control, are we talking days, weeks, months, longer? what do you look at? >> the longer this crisis goes on for it's become clear the longer it will take for them to get it under control. what they need to do now is clear out all the radioactive from the holds, reconnect the power where it hasn't yet been reconnected, repair the cooling systems where they've been damaged and then get those cooling systems operational. if there's no major setback, i think realistically that process will take at least a few weeks. but if they encounter new setbacks and new problems which unfortunately is a distinct possibility, then it could take significantly longer to get this crisis under control. >> brown: all right. well, i want to thank you both very much for the update. james acton, david brenner, thanks a lot. >> thank you. >> thank you.
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>> ifill: now, the u.s. supreme court weighs in on public funding for state political campaigns, and to ray suarez. >> suarez: justices waded back in to the hot-button topic of campaign finance today, for the first time since last year's controversial ruling to allow corporations and unions to spend freely on national campaigns. at issue today is the constitutionality of an arizona law and its formula for providing public financing to political candidates. marcia coyle of the "national law journal" walks us through today's arguments. marcia, it's actually two joined cases. how did arizona free enterprise club versus bennett and... make it to the high court. >> it involves arizona's public financing law. under that law if a candidate qualifies and wants to participate, the candidate receives a lump sum grant at the beginning of the primary or general election. if during the campaign that grant is exceeded by a non-participating opponent's
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contributions and independent spending by organizations or groups supporting that non-participating opponent, then it triggers matching funds. the matching funds though are capped by the law. the publicly financed candidate can never receive more than three times the initial grant. a lower court upheld the constitutionality of the law, and it was the arizona freedom pack that brought the challenge as well as several candidates in arizona in the second case that brought the challenge to the supreme court today. >> suarez: is it not public financing per se, as much as the connection between having your money go up, if privately financed candidates raise more money that's attracted all this opposition? >> that's exactly it, ray. the challengers here are not questioning the constitutionality of public financing. they're questioning the matching funds trigger. >> suarez: how did the lawyers arguing against the bill back
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up their contention that it's unconstitutional? >> william mayer of the institute for justice was representing the challengers. he said that the law violates... the matching funds trigger violates the first amendment because it kills speech. his clients either refrain from or delay spending money out of fear that they will trigger matching funds for the participating candidate that opposes them. >> suarez: do they have to provide any evidence that it was so, that candidates would raise less money for fear of their opponents getting more public funding? >> he claims in the lower court records there was evidence of some who did refrain or wait until the last minute of a campaign to spend. that was disputed by the opposing lawyer who was defending the law here. that was bradley phillips. he said that this law does not kill speech. in fact, it increases speech.
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by providing the matching funds... the matching funds ensures that a publicly financed candidate has sufficit money to be competitive. that's more speech not less speech. >> suarez: as the justices quizzed the lawyers, what part of the argument seemed to catch their interest? >> they really focused on how much of a burden, if there is a burden at all, is the matching funds provision on the non- participating candidate or independent spending groups? justices kagan, sotamayor and ginsberg seemed skeptical that there was a burden here and they asked the lawyer challenging the law, what exactly is the burden? is it that you delay spending because you choose to delay? he said no, the burden is substantial and the burden is that his clients are coerced into not speaking. on the other side though, chief justice roberts, justices kennedy and alito, they pressed the lawyer defending the law, mr. phillips, on why that isn't
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a substantial burden. the chief justice said, for example, isn't it just a matter of common sense that if i want to spend $10,000 and i know that that $10,000 is going to trigger $10,000 for my opponent or maybe $20,000 or $30,000 depending on how many publicly financed candidates there are in my campaign, then i'm going to think twice before i spend it? mr. phillips said i might think twice but it's not a significant burden. he noted that two-thirds of arizona candidates do participate in the public financing, and he said that at the outset these candidates make a choice as to whether public financing will benefit them. >> suarez: janet napolitano who was governor of arizona once joked that george w. bush raised money for her by holding a very successful republican fund- raiser which in fact enriched her own campaign coffers because she was using the public financing. >> that's true.
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and the opponents of the law feel that it can be gained in certain ways. but the defenders would say that the benefits far outweigh it. the voters of arizona in 1998 passed a referendum that was in reaction to one of the worst election-related scandals in the state's history. they see this law as essential to preventing corruption in campaigns. >> suarez: so this came out of an arizona corruption case. were the justices put in a position of deciding what's worse: political corruption or free speech in the form of campaign spending? >> i don't think it's a question of what's worse. i think if they ultimately believe-- and some questioned whether this law was designed to prevent corruption or, as the chief stice and justice kennedy indicated is, aren't we really here talking about leveling the playing field? which they have held is an impermissible goal under the first amendment.
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but i think what they're focused on and what they focus on in all of their campaign finance cases is, is there an i am permissible burden on speech here? are you discriminating at all on the basis of the identity of the speaker or on the content of the speech? >> suarez: we've got about a minute left. if the justices side with the petitioners here and strike down the arizona law, what effect could that have on campaign finance laws in other states? >> well, it will have an immediate effect in probably... not only in arizona but on about nine other states and more than a dozen cities, municipalities, that have similar funding schemes. what the court says here will be very important as to how local government can continue to experiment with campaign finance systems that are designed to prevent the influence, the corrupting effect of big money in elections. and the court may also say something about public financing

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